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2 - The symbolism of Çatalhöyük in its regional context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Ian Hodder
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
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Summary

Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to situate the symbolism and ritual at Çatalhöyük in the wider context of eastern Turkey and the Middle East. The rich symbolism at the site has already incited a wide range of interpretations of the site and its earlier and contemporary parallels to the east (Mellaart 1967; Clark 1977; Gimbutas 1989; Cauvin 2000; Özdoğan 2002; Lewis-Williams 2004; Mithen 2004). There are a number of contemporary and earlier sites with comparable art and symbolism (e.g., Jericho, Jerf el Ahmar, Nevalı Çori and Djade al-Mughara), and new discoveries are being made all the time. In particular, the site of Göbekli, excavated by Klaus Schmidt since 1994, has an equally or more remarkable concentration of symbolism, ritual and art starting in Pre-Pottery Neolithic A/B, the 9th millennium BC.

Çatalhöyük and Göbekli are very different in time and in place. They are 450 kilometers apart and in different regional traditions, in central and southeastern Turkey, respectively (Gérard & Thissen 2002). There are major differences in their economy and architecture. While the inhabitants of Çatalhöyük depended on domesticated cereals and pulses, as well as domestic sheep and goat, but on wild cattle, boar, deer and equid, at Göbekli all the plant and animal food resources were wild species. The architecture at Çatalhöyük is agglomerated individual houses of mud brick, whereas at Göbekli the buildings are of stone, sometimes of monumental proportions. There are also major differences in the setting of ritual and symbolism at the two sites: at Çatalhöyük the art and symbolism occur in domestic houses, whereas at the earlier site of Göbekli the symbolism is focused in separate ‘temples’. And yet in comparing Göbekli and other Neolithic sites in Turkey such as Nevalı Çori and Çatalhöyük, we have been struck by various similarities and contrasts that we would like to explore in this chapter (see also Hodder & Meskell, in press).

Type
Chapter
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Religion in the Emergence of Civilization
Çatalhöyük as a Case Study
, pp. 32 - 72
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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